Parker

Created by Richard Stark (pseud. Donald Westlake, 1933-2008)

"I'm only the messenger!"
"Now you're the message," Parker told him, and shot him.

-- Parker explains the facts of life, in Butcher's Moon (1974)

Definitely not a private eye. Richard Stark's (actually Donald Westlake's) PARKER is a hardened professional thief who appeared in a string of almost twenty excellent, extremely hardboiled caper paperback originals in the sixties and seventies. Demand for Westlake to bring back Parker resulted in the very well-received (and appropriately titled) Comeback in 1997. And seven more novels follwed, the series continuing right up until Westlake's death in 2009.

Along with the Parker novels, Stark wrote four Alan Grofield books about Parker's sometime partner in crime. These usually pick up just after Grofield and Parker have finished a job; they're a bit lighter, a bit more Westlake than the other Starks. Perhaps because Grofield doesn't see himself as a professional thief. He sees himself as an actor, who criminal exploits allow him to turn down roles he's not too fussy about.

The Parker series is often sited as one of the absolute best hard-boiled series ever written, unapologetically brutal and unflinching. It's also been the inspiration for several movies, although various directors have had some very different spins on his character, changing his name, his nationality, his race and even his gender on occasion. Rumour has it that when Westlake was asked why Parker was never called Parker in the movies, he replied that he didn't want them to use the name, unless they were going to make a series from the books.

Under his real name, Westlake writes the relatively light-hearted Dortmunder series, about a brilliant, but hilariously unlucky master criminal. The first Dortmunder caper, The Hot Rock (1970), also featured an appearance by Parker's buddy, Alan Grofield. Under the Tucker Coe penname, Westlake has written a series about guilt-ridden private eye, Mitch Tobin.

Westlake's always been rather playful when it comes to his books. In Jimmy The Kid, one of the Dortmunder books, his gang uses a Parker novel as a guideline for a caper; needless to say, it doesn't go quite as planned. The chapters alternate between the Dortmunder story and the Parker novel, entitled Child Heist. And another Dortmunder book, Drowned Hopes shares a chapter with Joe Gores' 1992 DKA novel 32 Cadillacs, with the gang stealing one of the Cadillacs of the title. The Donald Westlake novel. And this isn't the first time Gores and Westlake have high-fived each other. About 20 years ago, Dead Skip (1972), the first DKA novel, shared a chapter with Plunder Squad (1972), a Parker novel by Richard Stark (aka Westlake). And The Blackbird (1969), an Alan Grofield novel by Stark, shares a chapter with Slayground (1971), another Parker novel. Of course, these shared chapters are not exactly the same, but describe the same situations from different points of view (thanks to Jiro Kimura of The Gumshoe Site for the heads up on this one).

WHAT HAPPENED?

  • According to the January 15, 2002 issue of Daily Variety: "The Parker novel series, which Westlake wrote under the pen name Richard Stark, has been acquired for series treatment by FX net entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly...." Alexander Ignon adapted The Green Eagle Score for the pilot. "Westlake...liked Ignon's work and blessed the series. It'll be an original caper for Parker and will be written in the vein of The Sopranos and Heat, with the idea that a massive heist will be perpetrated over the course of a season, the setup building over episodes until the actual crime is perpetrated."

    Hmmmm.... Did anyone ever see this?

UNDER OATH

  • "Oiling the machinery is the author's biting irony toward characters who talk the big talk about love and trust and loyalty but ditch their Christian values for a hot babe or a cool buck. In a world of warped values, an honest crook like Parker is a true treasure." -- Marilyn Stasio, New York Times, review of Comeback

NOVELS

............

FILMS

  • POINT BLANK..Buy this DVD
    (1967, MGM)
    Based on the novel
    The Hunter by Richard Stark
    Directed by John Boorman
    Starring Lee Marvin as WALKER (Parker in the novel)
    Also starring Angie Dickinson, Keenan Wynn

  • MISE Á SAC
    AKA "Une Notte per 5 rapine," "Pillaged" and "The Score"
    (1967; France/Italy)
    Based on the novel
    The Score by Richard Stark
    Directed by Alan Cavalier
    Starring Michel Constantin, Daniel Ivernel, Irène Tunc, Franco Interlenghi, Philippe Moreau, Paul Le Person, Julien Verdier, Simone Landry

  • MADE IN THE U.S.A.
    (1967)
    (Unofficially) based on the novel
    The Jugger by Richard Stark
    Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
    Starring Anna Karina as a female Parker.
    Westlake apparently didn't like the movie and Godard never paid for the movie rights, so the film is not supposed to be shown in the US. The film is also known for characters named David Goodis, Don Siegel and Richard Widmark. Damn, I wish I could see this.

  • THE SPLIT
    (1968, MGM)
    Based on the novel
    The Seventh by Richard Stark
    Directed by George Flemyng
    Starring Jim Brown as McCLAIN (Parker in the novel)
    Also starring Gene Hackman, Diahann Carroll, Warren Oates, Ernest Borgnine
    .
  • THE OUTFIT ...Buy this DVD
    (1973, MGM)
    Based on the novel by Richard Stark
    Directed by John Flynn
    Starring Robert Duvall as EARL MACKLIN (Parker in the novel)
    Also starring Joe Don Baker, Robert Ryan, Karen Black, Elisha Cook Jr.

  • SLAYGROUND ...Buy this DVD ....Buy this video
    (1983, EMI)
    Based on the novel by Richard Stark
    Directed by Terry Bradford
    Starring Peter Coyote as STONE
    Also starring
    Mel Smith, Billie Whitelaw
    Other sources claim Coyote's character is actually called Parker in this one, which would make it the first time Parker is actually called Parker in a film. Does anyone know?

  • PAYBACK ...Buy this DVD ...Buy this Blu-ray....Buy this video
    (1999, Paramount)
    Based on the novel
    The Hunter by Richard Stark
    Screenplay by Brian Helgeland and Terry Hayles
    Directed by Brian Helgeland
    Starring Mel Gibson as PORTER (Parker in the book)
    Also starring Maria Bello, Lucy Liu, Gregg Henry, Deborah Unger, David Paymer, Bill Duke, Jack Conley, William Devane, Kris Kristofferson, John Glover, James Coburn, Art Cohan
    I know convential wisdom says that Point Blank is the classic, what with Lee Marvin and all that slick, arty style, but there's something about this unapologetically gritty and nasty flick, starring a pre-fall from grace Mel, that really appeals to me. Even more astounding, though, were complaints from some long-time Parker fans that Gibson was "too nice" in the role -- which was remedied by a subsequent re-released "director's cut" on DVD. A terse, violent, nasty, bleak, scuzzy walk on the wild side. Filmed in Chicago.

  • PARKER
    (2013, Filmdistrict)
    118 minutes
    Based on the novel
    Flashfire by Richard Stark
    Screenplay by John J. McLaughlin
    Directed by
    Taylor Hackford
    Starring Jason Statham as PARKER
    Also starring Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis, Bobby Cannavale, Wendell Pierce, Nick Nolte
    Everyone's favourite ice-cold professional thief returns, in something like his eighth film adaptation, but the first under the name Richard Stark (Donald Westlake) gave him: Parker. The good news is that Jason Statham, who already looks like a stone-cold bastard, plays the lead, in what's being discussed as a possible franchise, and Michael Chiklis, Bobby Cannavale, Wendell Pierce, Nick Nolte and Jennifer Lopez -- all pretty good in this kind of stuff -- are along for the ride. More troublesome is that it's directed by Taylor Hackford. But we'll see. (Opens January 25, 2013)

GRAPHIC NOVELS

............

  • THE HUNTER ...Buy this book
    (2009, IDW)
    Written and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke
    Talk about highly anticipated! Eisner Award winning Darwyn Cooke (Batman, The Spirt, Catwoman) adapts and illustrates the Richard Stark novel that introduced Parker. Betrayed by his dame and double-crossed by his partner, the ice-cold pro has only one thought in mind - revenge. First in a proposed series! (July 2009)

  • THE OUTFIT ...Buy this book
    (2010, IDW)
    Written and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke
    He's back! Cooke returns with his second adaptation. This time, Parker's on the outs with the mob. Poor them. (October 2010)

  • RICHARD STARK'S PARKER: THE MARTINI EDITION ..Buy this book
    (2011, IDW)
    Written and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke

    Darwyn Cooke's first two adaptations of Richard Stark's Parker novels, The Hunter and The Outfit, collected in one fancy pants oversized, slipcased hardcover edition, with a whopping additional 65 pages of Darwyn Cooke content, plus a brand-new story.

  • RICHARD STARK'S PARKER: THE SCORE ..Buy this book
    (2012, IDW)
    Written and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke

    The third of Darwyn Cooke's masterful adaptations of Richard Stark's Parker novels, The Score is, simply put, another triumph of graphic storytelling, style and wit.

  • RICHARD STARK'S PARKER: SLAYGROUND ...Buy this book
    (2013, IDW)
    Written and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke

RELATED LINKS

  • The Violent World of Parker
    A bold and extensive site devoted to Richard Stark's Parker novels. Tell them where you came from. There's an accompanying blog.

  • "But I could be wrong."
    The official Donald Westlake web site contains a semi-complete bibliography, a biography and, best of all, a Dortmunder short story from 1986. Enjoy!

  • A Donald Westlake Checklist
    From Italy comes Giovanni Resta's excellent and impressivley comprehensive bibliographical checklist of Westlake's work, which also includes short stories and some miscellanea. Giovanni's also refreshingly honest: "Despite the efforts, I have no delusion of completeness...so I'd be grateful to receive any corrections or additions. Especially if you can help me locating that short story I still badly lack...)

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to BSchin2188@aol.com for the tip.


| Home | Detectives A-L M-Z | Film | Radio | Television | Web Comics | Comics | FAQs | Search |
| Trivia | Authors | Hall of Fame | Mystery Links | Bibliography | Glossary | Advertising |
| This Just In... | Word on the Street | Non-Fiction | Fiction | Staff | The P.I. Poll |

Remember, your comments, suggestions, corrections and contributions are always welcome.
At the tone, leave your name and number and I'll get back to you...

Copyright 1998-2017, thrillingdetective.com. All rights reserved.
Web site by The Thrilling Detective Web Guy